Week 3: Mike's food tracking diary: The struggle is real

I'm already losing that logging feeling…
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So this is my second week of food tracking and after last week's measurement hell along with having to rummage in bins for barcodes and trying to deal with the restaurant dilemma, I was hoping for some positives in week three.

MyFitnessPal and Under Armour's HealthBox were still my fitness app and wearable combo of choice and this time I decided to upgrade to the app's premium subscription, which set me back to sign up for the month. An annual subscription is in case you were wondering.

Read this: The best calorie counter apps and wearables

So what was I getting for my money? Apparently a whole host of things including the ability to give me a more detailed breakdown of nutrient intake, showing me my good (and bad) logged meals and the ability to set custom daily goals to make sure I hit my protein or carbohydrate targets. It all sounded very comprehensive, but what I was really hoping for was to make the task of food tracking feel, well, less like a task.

Unfortunately that wasn't the case. My tracking motivation was already starting to slip badly. I was waiting to log an entire day of meals until the end of the day or, worse, the following day. Inevitably when that happens it's much easier to overlook those little snacks during the day. A couple of sweets here, a biscuit or two there. A notification prompt to remind you to log meals would've been a great addition to help me keep on top of things.

I wasn't really feeling the benefits of my premium subscription either. Any hopes this would help me gain a better understanding of my food by serving me up with even more information were quickly dashed. Everything just felt overwhelming and I found myself wanting to spend less time in the app trying to find out what data really mattered.

My failing Under Armour kit wasn't helping matters either. The UA Band I had been using to track steps, sleep and running ran out of battery after a couple of days on two occasions leaving me with a dent in my steps calorie adjustment. The UA Scales remain my favourite piece of the HealthBox ecosystem, but the frustrations with the Band and the food tracking had a knock on effect on remembering to weigh myself on a regular basis.

Week 3: Mike's food tracking diary: The struggle is real

Under Armour Record: Too few insights and an information overload

Where were the insights as well? In two weeks, I can only remember two IBM Watson-powered insights and they were both about exercise. Granted, I know identifying trends can take time, but I was expecting something on the food front, especially when it was the one element I was trying to keep on top of.

This was my second and final week with MyFitnessPal and Under Armour's fitness tech so it was time for reflection. Would I go back to it after the diary was done? Right now, I'm not convinced I will. It's the one I had the biggest expectations of and really believed it could help me out. The sizeable food logging library and elements like exercise integration didn't really make up for the fact that it still feels like you need to know be well schooled on all things food to really make the most of the information on hand.

When I recently spoke to Under Armour's Mike Lee, who co-founded MyFitnessPal, he said, "The simple act of writing down what you put in your body is tedious but effective. We have found that users who log their entire days' worth of food are more likely to stick to the plan. Also, the ability to see your projected food intake helps re-adjust, if needed." I'm sorry Mike, but it just didn't work for me.

Week 3: Mike's food tracking diary: The struggle is real

This week I will be trying to log airplane food

So now it's time to try something different and I've decided I'm going to go for one of Jawbone's fitness trackers and its UP companion app. I know that the company is clearly in a bit of disarray at the moment. We don't know whether it's going to make it to the end of 2017 and it's really been pissing people off with its lack of customer support.

Some hardware niggles aside, I've always been a big fan of what Jawbone has brought to the table, especially on the software front. It takes a similar approach to food tracking to Under Armour, letting you pick from a food library, scan barcodes and it also has restaurant menu support. This week will be another challenging one because I'll be abroad and that's likely to throw up some more potential food tracking curveballs. All I'm really hoping for is that Jawbone can restore my faith that there is a good solution out there.

Mike's food tracking diary

Week 1: The quest to find out if food tracking works
Week 2: I'm in measurement hell

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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